A flute can be described as a woodwind instrument, generally of a tubular shape, that is played by blowing across a specially-shaped opening (known as the embouchure) in such a way as to produce a vibrating column of air whose pulsations we hear as sound. George Washington, James Madison and Leonardo da Vinci all played the flute. Flutes are considered one of the earliest instruments and date back to Germany over 35,000 years ago. Many cultures have their own version of the flute. For example, one of the most popular traditional Japanese flutes is the the Shakuhachi. Flutes are made of substances such as copper-nickel, silver, gold, and grenadilla (a type of wood). Each of these materials produce different sound characteristics. Even among flutes made of the same material, sound quality and timbre vary according to the thickness of the material.
Just as the violin acts as the leader of the string section, the flute leads the woodwind section. They are the soprano voice in many orchestral and concert band pieces. Modern orchestras often use the flute to convey different cheerful or sad emotions. The flute is a unique instrument for a number of reasons. It is the only member of the woodwind family which is not usually wooden, and it does not have a reed. It is also the only instrument that is held sideways and blown without a mouthpiece that goes inside the mouth. In the flute, the air jet, in cooperation with the resonances in the air in the instrument, produces an oscillating component of the flow. Once the air in the flute is vibrating, some of the energy is radiated as sound out of the end and any open holes.